The CBT Mustang had its first outing of the year at June’s American Speedfest at Brands Hatch. The main attraction of the weekend was the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series cars but the star of the weekend was the CBT Mustang FR500 driven by Steve Wood.
The Mustang was competing in Bernie’s V8 race series. More than 32 thundered around the Brand Hatch Indy circuit in three races over the weekend, the first two events acting as heats to set the grid for the grand final on Sunday afternoon. The grid contained muscular V8 brutes from both sides of the pond, making it a truly transatlantic spectacle.
Among the cars assembled were stunning US favourites such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette and Chevrolet Camaro. These mighty American brutes were up against British counterparts including MGBs and the super-quick TVR Sagaris and TVR Tuscan. Two rare examples of early post-war US sports car, the Streets Manning Special and Baldwin Mercury Special, were flown over from the USA specially for the event. Another notable entry was the 1970s Thunder Saloon Stars and Stripes Open Manta V8.
Qualifying took place on Saturday morning in dry conditions. With 34 V8s out on the tight 1.2-mile track at the same time, finding a clear track would be critical during the 15-minute session. Steve decided to go out towards the back of the pack with a clear track ahead. Half-way through the session, on lap eight, he managed a 51.5s lap, good enough for pole position for race one by 0.364s. Starting alongside the CBT Mustang on the front row of the grid would be the Opal Manta followed by the TVR Tuscan, TVR Sagaris, Sunbeam Tiger, MGB V8 and a Jensen Healey.
Saturday afternoon’s weather changed dramatically: one minute it was raining hard, then the sun would come out and then it would rain again. It was decided to start the 15-minute race on wet tyres as it was too damp for slicks. It was a rolling start and, after two green flag laps, Steve made the perfect getaway. The Opel Manta and CBT Mustang were side by side going into the first corner but soon afterwards the Manta started to fall back and was passed by the Tuscan, Sagaris, and the MGB. The mighty CBT Mustang was never headed throughout the race and Steve was able to control it from the front. After 13 laps Steve’s winning margin was just over 7s. Steve also managed to take the fastest lap of the race in quite difficult wet conditions, setting a time of 59.002s.
The grid for Sunday morning’s second race was decided by the finishing order from race one, so the CBT Mustang started again from pole position. Alongside on the front row this time was the Sunbeam Tiger followed by the MGB, TVR Tuscan, TVR Sagaris another MGB and a Dodge Challenger. It was again a rolling start and the track conditions were wet.
Steve Wood and the CBT Mustang made an excellent start and they were able to control the entire race from the front. Behind the Mustang some great close racing was going on and Dean Cook in his TVR Sagaris was closing in on Steve towards the end of the race. After 15 laps the Mustang took the chequered flag just 4.5s ahead of the Sagaris, which set the fastest lap of the race in pursuit of the Mustang.
Sunday afternoon’s final race was dry. To try to even things up it was decided by the organisers to reverse the top eight cars from the race two result; Steve therefore lined up behind seven others, with the Jensen Healey on pole. Also on the front row was the Opal Manta followed by the Dodge Challenger, MGB, TVR Tuscan, TVR Sagaris and another MGB.
The grand final was a 20-minute race and Steve would have to be at his best as overtaking around the tight Indy Circuit is very difficult. He made a cautious start as races can always be lost on the first lap and never won, especially with so many cars on the grid. After lap one he had managed to squeeze himself ahead of two cars, up to sixth, which position he managed to maintain for three laps.
On lap four he got ahead of the pole position Jensen Healey and the MGB, and the CBT Mustang was up to fourth. A lap later saw it was third as the Mustang overtook the other MGB and, two laps after that, Steve squeezed past the Tuscan to take up pursuit of the leading Sagaris.
For three laps the Mustang held station just under a second behind the leader, but then, while trying to pass backmarkers, Steve lost second place. It took him a lap to repass and then he was soon on to the rear of the leading car. For two laps Steve tried everything he knew to take the lead but Dean Cook in the TVR drove very defensively to make it as difficult as possible for the CBT Mustang to get ahead.
On lap 14 Steve took his chance while they lapped a backmarker. Going into Paddock Hill Bend the Mustang went to the right and the TVR to the left. Three cars abreast usually ends in tears but the mighty Mustang took the lead to the delight of the massive crowd. Once in front it was Steve’s turn to defend to try to get his third victory of the weekend. Backmarkers would again play a role in the race and Steve’s experience enabled him to get lapped cars between himself and the Sagaris. After 23 absolutely spell-binding laps the CBT Mustang took the chequered flag for race victory number three just over a second ahead of the TVR Sagaris. The final podium place went to the TVR Tuscan, followed home by the MGB and Jensen Healey. The fastest lap of the race went to the Sagaris 51.618 with the Mustang setting the second fastest lap of 51.674. For lap after lap it really was that close.
The CBT Mustang’s victories made a little bit of history as it was the first time in the four years of running American Speedfest that an American car had taken victory. Steve was delighted with his three race wins and the superb handling of the Mustang. “Race three was probably the hardest race I have ever driven,” said Steve, “and I was so determined to make it three out of three. We thank everyone at Simon Green Motorsport for looking after the Mustang over the weekend.” The victories were dedicated to Neil Cunningham, a great friend of Steve and Stuart who unfortunately lost his life recently after a five-year battle with MND.